A Pentecost message from Bishop Andrew Asbil

Posted on May 29, 2020

“Stay in Jerusalem,” Jesus told them on Easter. Stay until you have been clothed with power from on high. So, for fifty days they remained all together watching, waiting and praying for that day to come.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Like the sound of a speeding locomotive, the Spirit of God rushed in to push the disciples out. This was no gentle nudge, no light bump like that of a mother urging her child to go out to play. This was more like a holy shove, a divine disruption. It was a moment of clatter and clamour, so loud that crowds assembled to see what all the commotion was about…. Drunk, some thought. Troublemakers from Galilee, others thought.

The Spirit did not come to bring trouble, nor to cause anxiety, hindrance, suffering or pain. Rather, the Spirit came to rouse peace and blessing, mercy and compassion. The Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to find their voice that day. They spoke with such conviction and clarity about Jesus that day. With such clarity, they could be understood in other languages.

They aren’t drunk, Peter would say. They are alive in the reality that Joel the prophet described long ago…‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 3,000 were baptised that day.

Since the third Sunday of Lent (that’s 65 days and counting), we have been dwelling in a time of disruption, anxiety and trouble. We have been unable to be all together in one place. Unable to gather for the Eucharist or baptism, funeral or wedding, ordination or even coffee hour as we were once accustomed. It is a sacrifice we have made for the sake of our neighbour. And yet in these strange times, we have found the divine in disruption, we have heeded a holy shove to stand in front of video cameras to preach and to pray. We have learned to livestream and post. We have studied the Bible by Zoom, conducted meetings by teleconference. We have found our voice to rouse peace and blessing, life and forgiveness.

In dwelling apart, we have discovered that we are in this together. The Jubilee that we announced for April and May has now been extended to include the month of June. We hope and pray that this further financial support will help all of us return to our buildings with confidence. How we long to return. How we long to gather around the table and break bread together and pour out the wine, to baptise, to bless, to ordain and to bury with dignity and celebration.

These have not been easy days. I am so grateful for your steadfast faithfulness and for the mutual strength that we find together in our resurrected Lord. The easing of restrictions would indicate that our re-opening will be made possible. Over the next number of weeks, we will continue to take direction from our government leaders and medical officers of health to help give guidance to ensure that our gatherings are safe and sound. Special precautions and protocols will need to be followed and we will communicate these strategies in a timely way.

And a last word. At our Synod last fall, I stated that by the Day of Pentecost, we would be presenting a new policy on marriage for the Diocese of Toronto. Over the last number of months, a writing group that included the Rev’d Canon Dr. Eric Beresford, Chancellor Clare Burns, the Rev. Dr. Judy Paulsen, the Rev’d Susan Spicer and myself, conducted a number of public consultations that helped to guide the design and content of a series of documents that describe the steps taken toward offering local option. With the concurrence of the College of Bishops, the primary document is a policy on marriage. We hope and pray that you will receive this policy with the same spirit in which it is offered, with peace and blessing, mercy and compassion.

And now may the Spirit of God breathe peace and power through you and through your life, in your work and witness, in your waiting and watching, and may you experience the Holy Prodding that enables you to do mission and ministry in the world, bringing glory to the One who created, redeems and sanctifies us all. Thanks be to God.